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Oklahoma man found mentally incompetent to stand trial in slayings of Long Beach mother, 4-year-old girl

LONG BEACH, CA., MAY 30,2017: Defendant Brandon Colbert Jr., looks to his attorney Jason O. Sias for
Brandon Colbert Jr., left, looks to his attorney, Jason O. Sias, for answers during a mental competency hearing in Long Beach.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

An Oklahoma man accused of using a shotgun to kill a Long Beach mother and her 4-year-old daughter last year was found mentally incompetent Tuesday to stand trial in the twin slayings.

Brandon Colbert, 23, will undergo treatment at a state hospital until a judge deems him fit to face murder charges in the August 2016 shooting deaths of Carina Mancera, 26, and her daughter, Jennabel Anaya. Colbert was arrested in the killings in November, but questions about his mental health and his insistence on acting as his own attorney have hung over a series of pretrial hearings in recent months.

Citing a nine-page medical report, Judge Jesse Rodriguez deemed Colbert unfit for trial and ordered him to be admitted a state hospital for treatment. If he is restored to competency, he could still be tried in the slayings.

Jason Sias, an attorney appointed by the court to represent Colbert at the competency hearing, said it is unlikely Colbert’s mental health will be reevaluated until he spends at least 90 days in a hospital.

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“Unfortunately, this is a tragic situation where two people have lost their lives. I don’t want to downplay that whatsoever. But there’s another issue with this case and it’s dealing with mental health,” Sias said.

Colbert, who was handcuffed and wearing a padded blue prison jumpsuit, did not have any visible reaction to the decision. Several of the victims’ relatives were seated in court, including Jennabel’s grandmother, but they declined to comment on the ruling.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Cynthia Barnes could be heard telling the victims’ relatives inside the courthouse that the ruling was “a good thing in the long run.” Outside of court, she said she believed treatment and medication would likely result in Colbert being able to stand trial at a later date.

The brazen nature of the shootings shocked Long Beach last year and left police scratching their heads. Mancera and her daughter were returning home from grocery shopping when, prosecutors say, Colbert emerged from a shadowy hiding spot and opened fire.

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Mancera died almost instantly. Jennabel was severely wounded and died at an area hospital a short time later. Colbert is also accused of firing a round at Mancera’s longtime boyfriend, Luis Anaya, but the shot missed and Anaya escaped uninjured.

Colbert — a native of Tulsa, Okla., who arrived in California for the first time just two days before the killings — was arrested in the shootings three months later when he was linked to the crime by DNA found on a spent shotgun shell. Prosecutors have not commented on a motive in the case or said if Colbert knew the victims. Barnes declined to comment on a motive Tuesday.

The defendant’s mental health had become a central issue in the case. In 2014, Colbert was diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder, meaning he was exhibiting symptoms associated with schizophrenia, according to medical records provided to The Times by his mother.

His mother said he stopped taking medicine meant to keep the symptoms at bay in early 2016, and doctors in Oklahoma also feared he had been abusing “K2,” a synthetic form of marijuana that doctors say can cause psychotic episodes and violent outbursts.

Colbert’s mother and younger sister have said they don’t know why he chose to travel to California last year. He did not have any acquaintances in Los Angeles or Long Beach, according to his relatives, who said they believe Colbert is innocent.

In January, Colbert announced plans to represent himself at trial over the objections of an attorney retained by his relatives. Since then, his defense strategy has largely involved trafficking in conspiracy theory.

He has repeatedly accused prosecutors of framing him and made several references to a 1997 crime film, “Gang Related.” The plot of the movie centers on two corrupt police officers who frame a homeless man for a murder.

During a March hearing, Colbert claimed that the people he is accused of killing are not actually dead.

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Earlier this month, prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. Prosecutors also previously asked a judge to determine whether or not Colbert was competent to act as his own attorney, though they did not suggest he was incompetent to be tried for the murders, court records show.

Barnes said that if Colbert is found competent to stand trial at a later hearing, she will still request a finding about his competency to represent himself, should he seek to act as his own attorney again. Sias said he is hopeful that, once properly medicated, Colbert will decide to accept the aid of an attorney.

Colbert’s trial was scheduled to begin this month, but in April, Rodriguez ordered him to undergo a competency hearing. Near the end of that May 15 competency hearing, Colbert collapsed in the courtroom. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Colbert was treated at an area hospital before he was returned to a local jail.

The spokesman would not say what prompted the medical incident.

james.queally@latimes.com

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.


UPDATES:

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2:50 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from an attorney appointed to represent Colbert at the competency hearing.

This article first published at 11 a.m.


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